Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Exercise Diary: Opposite activities, opposite emotional journeys

Today was yoga day.  I was excited and afraid at the same time.  Excited that I get to do yoga again, which works on a whole bunches of different parts of the body, afraid because last time I went it was a rough hour and 15 minutes.  And since I didn't go last week, I wasn't sure how I would fare.

Surprisingly it went well.  I did all the poses without stopping or taking a restorative pose.  I still have some balance issues, but my legs seem to be much stronger.  Even though we did A LOT of crescent lunges and warrior IIs, my thighs weren't as exhausted as they had been last time.  And when I did chair poses my shins weren't hurting.  My right ankle was more screwed up than my left by the end, but it doesn't seems to be a long lasting injury.  It was interesting to note that my right side and my left side of the body (especially the legs) have different degrees of flexibility and balance (probably due to strength), and despite (or because of) the imbalance I could certain poses better on one side, and certain other poses better on the other side.

We also did some major core stuff.  In fact, we blatantly did lots of crunches.  We had to put a foam block between our legs, kept the legs raised, and squeeze the block as we do the crunches.  I haven't done crunches in a while, so tomorrow I'm going to feel it.

For yoga, or any other form of exercise, you always have a tough time during the activity, but feel really good afterwards.  But for eating, it's completely the opposite.

During yoga I had this overwhelming urge to get gelato afterwards.  I later realized that I was just really hot and thirsty, and after I took a few sips of water I no longer had this urge.  But when we were doing our final resting pose before the end of class, my mind wondered from fish taco to fried fish, and I decided that I wanted fish and chips for dinner.  Nothing healthy, and everything fried.

I ended up getting chicken tenders and fries because I had mistakenly thought the restaurant I went to had fish and chips.  They were still very good, and there was way too much food.  I ended up taking most of the fries home, but still forced myself to finish all the chicken tenders.  I also had two giant cups of ginger ale (yes I allowed myself soda and they gave free refills).  So I think I ate all the calories back.  But after over eating I felt terrible, wondering why I would wasted a hard day of yoga, why I would allow myself to feel so terrible like this, again.  And I remembered, I remembered how much I wanted that fried food, how I couldn't bear leaving one piece of freshly fried chicken tender for left over, so I kept eating.

It's a sick addition, and according to Stephen Fry, it's just like sex.  Feeling great while doing it, disgusted afterwards.  But both exercise and eating are fun and addictive.

I really wish I have an iPhone right now so I can download and play Zombies, Run game to further motivate me running.  And yoga is a great cross training for running, I don't know why no one has really said it before.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Exercise Diary: I want to say I hopped like a bunny...

But unfortunately my run today was another crawl.

I had set two goals for my running today:

  1. To run two extended laps around the pond.  That's about 2.5 miles.
  2. To run the whole way, as slow as necessary.
Well, needless to say I broke both rules.  I didn't have the guts to do the extended route for the fear of being seen, which in retrospect seems like a silly reason but the decision to turn to a more familiar route  as you are running was just so easy.  I did, however, end up running three normal laps around the pond.  That and my warm up walk made up my total of 3.12 miles, which I did in 45 minutes.  

Not quite a 5K, what a shame.  If I didn't end my workout before my cool down walk was over I could've had an official record of a 5K.  Oh well.  But one thing I am hopeful after today is that I am confident that I can complete my 5K on Saturday in a reasonable time.

As for running the whole way, well.  I did start slow, deliberately choosing a much slower pace to start me off so I don't run out of breath during the first quarter mile.  That seemed to work somewhat, because I was able to run a lot longer before I stopped (still didn't last a mile, but oh well).  And I stopped because I was really tired, instead of being bored of running.  And I did two more running stretches, both quite long.  My last stretch was especially long.  I almost completed the entire loop.  And what was great was that I could just keep going for much longer than I expected and for a few minutes I had this wonderful feeling that I could keep running forever.  Despite the thigh muscle aches, despite the lurking shin splints, despite the alarming knee pains, I just kept going.  I only stopped because the right side of my stomach/belly was spasming.  I wasn't sure what it was.  It wasn't appendicitis, since I barely ate anything all day.  It couldn't've been my kidney, although I wouldn't even know what it would mean.  I concluded that it was a spasm of one of my back muscles.  Didn't feel like a muscle, but whatever.  I stopped running, walked a bit, and the pain went away.  All in all it was a successful and happy workout.  

And as I was walking back it started to rain.  Lucky!  It had been cloudy for over an hour before I went out but during the entire run it wasn't too windy and it was the perfect temperature to run.  I technically didn't need a hat since there was no sun, but it was still a godsend for keeping sweat out of my face.

Next time I run this loop (not for another week at least, since it's going to rain all week) I am going to bring my camera again.  I see life on the dead branches around the pond.  I see flowers already blossoming.  I finally see spring~

I also noticed that I'm definitely the slowest one on course.  When I began my run I saw a man running toward me from a distance, and I ran on the same side of the road as he is (facing the traffic).  After a while I could hear him getting nearer and passing me.  As he passed by I realized that he is a much older man than I expected, with gray hair and everything!  Oh shame.  There were several other guys running the opposite direction as I was.  One was pretty good but I only saw him for one loop.  The other wasn't running as effortlessly but still going fast.  His form was all messed up and his arms flailing around.  But he seemed to be going faster and faster for the two times we crossed.  

My biggest disappointment was being passed by this one guy who looked equally out of shape as I was.  He probably weighs more than me but he's also taller, and most of the weight looked like fat and not muscle.  He was panting just as hard, and the way his feet moved suggested that he hasn't read up on the proper form (not that I have great form but at least I think I know how it should look).  And his pace wasn't really fast either.  But he passed me, and kept going.  I made one infinitesimal effort to at least catch up to him but realized that it was a lost cause.  It made me hopeful and sad at the same time.  Hopeful that I'm not the only novel, terrible runner on the road, but sad because so far I'm still the last one of the bunch.  

Yoga tomorrow.  I need to stretch my body, take a break from running, and take the chance to work on other aspects of my body.  A lot of the exercise I saw that are helpful with back, core, hip, and glute muscles are familiar yoga moves, so it's time that I go back to the studio.  Off Wednesday, and maybe an indoor run on the treadmill on Thursday.  Off Friday because of the race on Saturday.  I'm not ready, I really am not.  But my goal for this race is to finish in 45 minutes or less, which seems to be a practical goal at this moment.  And I try to focus my attention on the more fun stuff, namely the free T-shirt and the after party burger deals.  

So that's all~~

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Exercise Diary: Can still feel it

If my Friday's big leap forward was any indication that my running has reached any breakthrough, well it wasn't.

I must've not stretched well enough, because after waking up this morning I can still feel my thighs screaming at me.  It's been two days!  And to make matters more difficult, my back muscles are aching too.  I was volunteering at our local animal humane society, and part of what I did was moving ~20 bags of 40lb wood pellets.  I only had to move them one by one from the floor onto a shelf about 5 feet away, and at the time it didn't seem like a big deal, but I can really feel it now.  My arms hurt a little too but I barely notice that.

Another thing I noticed after waking up this morning: it wasn't raining!  It was freezing, but it was dry.  So my first thought was that I could squeeze some running in.  I had planned to run outside.  I was even going through all the routes in my head and choosing mentally what I could wear that would fend away the cold but wouldn't boil me after running a while.  In the end I decided that a big loop that would drain me as I get to the middle of nowhere would not be a good idea, and I settled on the outdoor track around our football field, with a backup plan of treadmill running.

I was poorly dressed.  It was freezing!  The forecast said mid-40s but I didn't factor in the wind so even as I was walking toward the gym (5 mins away), I abandoned the idea of running in this weather.  Besides, it seemed that they were setting up for a game of sorts.

So I ended up doing 1.7 miles on the treadmill.  Pathetic, I know.  I was happy, however, that when I first got in there it was warm and toasty.  I was behind on laundry so I wore my back-up sports bra, which I now detest because not only my boobs were bouncing way too much it also didn't absorb all the sweat, so by the end my shirt was soaked and I felt disgusting.  I don't know what it was made of but my trusty go-to bra was made of nylon, which I think is the preferred material for running gears, and let me tell you, it makes a world of difference.

One thing that really puzzles me is why I spend the day just bursting with desire to run, and when I was running, just couldn't wait to stop.  I got tired easily, my endurance doesn't seem to be improving, I have no self-motivation to keep running, and I just constantly have this overwhelming desire to stop.  I kept telling myself that my first 5K is in a week, and that I really need to keep running to get to the end.  But I just couldn't.  I tried running at a slower speed, didn't seem to help.

The only thing I could think of is that I'm not mentally prepared to run a good distance.  My thighs didn't hurt while running, by the way, so it wasn't like I was suffering though my bodily aches.  I still need to work on my new shoes, they are not giving me shin splints anymore but I don't feel comfortable in them and they do still stain my feet to a degree.

But my point is, I no longer have a goal set before I start to run, and therefore have nothing to motivate me.  Especially when you are on a treadmill, where things can be a lot more boring than running outside.  I no longer have a time goal; I figured that I would always cheat by walking the whole time.  I don't have a distance goal, since I was never sure how far I could get (especially today).  I don't have a pace goal, thinking that I would never adhere to it.  I just get on the treadmill, start running, and stop just as easily.

I've always believed in making plans, and I've always accepted the fact that things would almost never go as planned.  In fact, that's what I enjoy most about life; having things not go as planned, because they invariably always turn out to be better.  But you've always got to have a plan.  And now I don't have plans when I go running.  As a result, I get tired, and I'm disappointed after my runs.  Things need to change, or I may just stop running altogether.

It's going to be nice out tomorrow so I think I will run around the pond again.  I really hate the roads around the pond.  We always run on the edge because the road is narrow and we have to share it with the cars, but the edge is curved so it's uneven on the feet, and broken so you constantly step on gravel.  But for next weekend's 5K a good majority of the race is running an extended loop around the pond, so I figured that it would be good to get used to the route.  Besides, the extended loop is more like 1.5 miles so I figured a good 2 loops should be enough exercise.  I think my goal for tomorrow is to run the whole thing without stopping, no matter how slow I get.  Let's see how that goes.

On a lighter note, I impulsively bought a hydration backpack from ebay.
It looks like this.

It's a Coleman Max 2L hydration bladder lightweight camping/hiking backpack.  Obviously I don't need this right now because my runs are short and I stick to the roads.  But I sometimes hike in the summer and I thought maybe someday I will be able to do long runs and may need this (someday, way in the distant future).  

But honestly, the main, main reason I got this is because it is only $20!  It was originally sold for almost $90, so I thought, this is a bargain that wouldn't come by again in a long time.  And it's perfect for me because the other hydration vests I've seen so far, besides being ridiculously expensive, also have tiny compartments that you can only fit your essential keys and things and maybe a GU or two.  But this looks like it can fit a light jacket so when I go hiking it would be perfect.  It's still an impulsively buy though, I'm ashamed of myself, and at the same time thrilled by the bargain.  I also bought it when I was having one of those afternoon when shopping is the only therapy that works~~.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Exercise Diary: First non-solo run/ it took so long/ I'm gonna pay for it tomorrow

The title pretty much said it all, and I didn't take any pictures, so now I'l just ramble.

I was gonna go out to run today anyway, on the loop that we eventually did as well, sort of.  But our lab manager didn't want to go to yoga today so she asked me if she could join me.  Apparently she got new running shoes and was dying to try them out.

She picked me up from my apartment.  Not that where we were going to run was very far away but she still offered.  And in return I was supposed to help her move a piece of (very) heavy furniture into her place.  It was heavy, but the worst part was that there was very little to hold on to as we moved it.  If you are working out your fingers for rock climbing I would recommend the activity.  We were both so tired afterwards, but at least it was all in the arms and not legs.

We then took a short, slow walk to the bottom of a big hill as warm-up.  The plan was to start running from the bottom of the hill, run past our town's reservoir, down a road that eventually loops back to the street we were on.  It was supposed to be around 5K.

Before we started my friend made me promise to run the whole way up and after, and in return she promised that the run after the big hill would be nothing compared to it.  She kept her promise, I... well I cheated as usual.

The hill was... brutal.  It didn't look brutal, but in reality it was.  I was panting so hard and loudly and going slower and slower and right before I reached the top, I gave up.  My friend was running behind me and was screaming at me to keep going.  At that point we reached an intersection/driveway (I really can't remember now) and a car was there waiting to turn.  We both waved for it to pass first but the driver was very nice and waited.  Not wanting to delay her for too long we both jogged past the intersection.  In retrospect I owed the woman driving the car everything I did today because if it wasn't for her, I would've probably walked the entire way.  The motivated restart of the jog really made a world of difference.  Maybe she knew that and that's why she let us pass first :P.

After the Big Hill of Death came a stretch of relatively flat but curvy road, with a bit of downhills mixed in.  I mean, we just went up a whole bunch, we are bound to come down at some point.  We kept jogging, and my friend was being really nice and was running my pace and only a big ahead of me.  We commented on the houses on the way.  She pointed out where a professor couple from our department lived, why some of the houses there had really flat roofs, and how some of the houses look really weird for residential purposes.  I was panting loudly for quite a while, just listening to her ramble (she was able to talk during the climb and right afterwards, jealous).  I had run and hiked with her before and really hated having a conversation with her.  It involved using the brain, which never has enough oxygen at that point, and speaking, which messed up my (heavy) breathing.  We didn't make a pact to keep silent this time (like we did for our last hike), but eventually when I caught my breath I started talking back, and it was wonderful.  I've long read that the best pace to run at is a pace at which you can talk comfortably, and I had always regarded it as a myth.  I could barely talk when I was walking fast!  But for that one glorious mile we crawled along the edge of the town (scattered houses on one side, deep woods on the other), chatting, me actually telling a story or two, us commenting on the woods, the weather, and the little cabin houses we came across.  It helped that the mile had lots of gradual downhills, which didn't put too much stress on my feet but made me feel that I actually could run.  In actuality I was crawling at a painfully slow speed, but whatever.

Then we came to a stretch of sharper downhill that eventually led to a nearby pond that is also part of the town's recreational area.  We decided to take a short break, look at the pond for a bit.  My friend needed a port-a-potty break, I wanted to get some water but couldn't find a fountain or vending machine.  But it was a nice break.  We saw a woman bringing two very excited and hyper dogs into the tennis court to play.  It was getting late (and dark) so the view was beautiful but darker than I wanted.  I stretched a bit and loosened my knees.  We chatted about kayaking.

Not quite the same time of the year (didn't bring my camera today), or the same view point, but the pond is still the same.

Afterwards my friend took me on a little trail that would lead to more paved roads.  It was tough because it was another steep climb and although I promised I would run the whole way I wasn't told that the "trail" was muddy and not a real trail, just an often walked patch in the middle of the woods with some red paint as guide.  And it was full of branches, and the mud was deep.  Anyway I wanted to run but it just wasn't worth it.  

Anyway, it turned out that we came out of the back of this elementary school, which I had been before on my previous walks.  We kept jogging, and by that time it was getting late, cold, and I was tired.  If I was running alone I would definitely have walked the whole way back.  But I wasn't allowed to in this case.  So I crawled even slower.  Evidently according to my Nike+ tracker I was doing the same speed as the earlier mile right after the big hill.  So maybe I was unlocking some running potential previously deeply buried within me.  

By that time we were heading back via a nicely paved road that's a must on any trail or race course passing though this area.  In fact for my first 5K next week we were also going to run on this road at one point.  Not in the same direction as we did today, but the road is fairly flat and for every uphill there was an equally satisfying downhill.  No sidewalk though, it was all paved road.

It took all the strength and determination I had to jog through this stretch.  I was really exhausted (and bored) by that point.  My friend was running faster and faster, as if, toward the end of our run, releasing all the unused energy she had stored after tolerating with me and my slow crawl.  She kept running faster and faster, slows down, turns around, jogs back toward me, turns, and runs ahead again.  A car passed by when she was in the middle of doing that, and it was embarrassing.  But I had no desire to catch up to her pace.  I did, from stretches to stretches, felt like I was running slightly faster and more energetic, then was more drained and reduced to an almost walk.  We passed another professor's house, which was situated right next to the road and in the middle of the hill.  The house had a strange architecture as well.  The garage door was open, there were 3 bikes inside, and the wall of the garage was decorated with license plates.  Couldn't see anybody though.  

Just when I felt like I couldn't run anymore we came to a slight downhill, and I saw a house I had seen when we first started our warm-up walk.  And then I saw the street we started on.  We finally made our way back!  Just a few more steps on a downhill stretch and we were done, did a high-five that totally failed, walked a bit more to cool down.  As she drove me back to my apartment (I could've walked, but I was too tired) we saw 3 deers in a little meadow by the road.  A perfect end to our run.

We ended up doing 4.4 mi in 1:12.  The time included our pond break, and the distance included our warm-up walk.  So theoretically we could've run longer for the same amount of time or complete the same distance sooner, but this is by no means a good time.  It did mean, however, that we can finish a 5K (she was panicked to learn that it's next weekend), and that we can finish it by running most, if not all, the way.  

My legs are still sore now.  Mostly my thighs, I'm happy to say, which means no real injury.  My knees were hurting a little right after we finished running but they don't anymore so that's good.  I still don't think I'm ready for my 5K next week, but now I know that running with people ( my friend will run with me and there will be other people and maybe even spectators) does motivated me a lot, pushing me to push myself.  The scenery is very nice, and the hills (most of them, anyway) are not as horrible as I had imagined.  With any luck I might even do well next week~~  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Exercise Diary: Why do I even bother?

After a two-day hiatus, I chose to go out and run over yoga.  It's a really nice day out, and even though the forecast had predicted strong wind (the wind was pretty strong), it was really nice and cool for running.  I went by the pond again, which meant that I changed and brought my gym clothes to the lab.

The run was pretty bad.  I think I ran for 10 minutes before stopping.  The road was uneven as usual and plenty of people passed me along the way.  I walked way too much.  And although I didn't get shin splints (the new insoles really helped), my left calf was cramped for most of the run.  I stopped to stretch twice, which was absolutely embarrassing because I only did two laps around the pond total.  My Nike+ thing said I did 2.9 miles, and I only semi-trust it, although it did calculate my walking distance to and from the lab, and I took a little detour on my second lap to go up a hill, thinking it would lead to a trail by the river, only to find the end of someone's driveway and a big sign that says "Keep Out".

The whole ordeal took 45 minutes, and I didn't even cover a standard 5K.  I got tired so easily, and my legs are pathetic.  I'm not going to be ready for the 5K next weekend (although I planned, during my run, to run this weekend part of the 5K course that we are going to run next weekend as practice), it's going to take forever for me to complete the race, and I was going to thoroughly embarrass myself.  Two people I know saw me in my running gear (although I was done by that point so they didn't see me walking pathetically around the pond) and now they know that I own an ugly orange cap and I run.  I guess now I'm normal.

For the past two days when I was cooped up inside or was unable to go to the gym I thought about nothing but running.  I read other people's running blogs, I looked up races and past results, I made mental calculations on how fast I needed to run to finish a certain distance within a certain time.  I dreamt about running, I couldn't wait to change and get to the pond.

But when I'm running I feel like hell.  Tiredness and out-of-breath aside, my legs hurt, my feet hurt, my body feels heavy and useless, I don't think my form is right (judging by my shadow), I had to stop often, and generally I feel like a loser and failure.  I guess I felt somewhat accomplished and therefore satisfied knowing that I almost covered 3 miles today, which was more than Monday's run, I was more panicked about the terrible time, and how unready I am, and how I don't want to run with people.

I did realize, however, that I tend to run faster than I can handle right at the beginning, and quickly go out of breath and had to slow down.  And looking back at my running graph I was running way faster than I would normally do on the treadmill right at the beginning.  I really don't know why I do that, but I always do.  But now I learned to slow down when I feel really out of breath and jog slow, as opposed to stop and walk, and I could cover more distance that way before walking.  My old impatience self was also back.  I would stop running before I'm completely out of breath or before my legs were seriously protesting, just because I didn't feel the point to keep running anymore.  I need new, temporary goals now to keep running, to not stop.  I hope I'll think of something by my next run.

So all in all I'm not satisfied with my run.  But I still have some time to practice, and when race day comes I'll just have to tell myself that it doesn't really matter what other people think.  My cramps can't really be helped except with more practice, and I'll just have to accept that as well.

On the positive side, I have the illusion that my calves look slightly smaller and tighter than they were before.  I don't know if it's real, I certainly have not lost any significant weight, but I'd like to think that running for all these weeks have helped shaping my legs somewhat.

Hungry now, need to go and eat.  Tomorrow is another day~

Random Running Related Rambles

It's more like a list of random things rather than endless rambles, but I like the alliteration.  I want to make a list post so I have all the information in one place. Will update often, hopefully.

Useful Websites:

I've been browsing the net on an off for the past week and came across a number of websites that offer really cool things.

  • Hungry Runner Girl blog.  It's one of the first blogs I came across after I realized that if I'm writing a blog on random semi-running related things, there must be other people out there, real runners, who also keep blogs.  And this was one of the first ones that came up.  HRG is a very hard core runner, and I found it very cool that she's able to manage running and all the other crazy things that happen in the life of a single mother.
  • Runblogger.  Another one of those blogs I came across during my initial search.  It has a lot of product reviews which I personally don't find very useful, but it also provides a lot of tips and such for beginners and more experienced runners alike.  I was also surprised to find out yesterday that the blogger is from Concord, NH, which is not too far from where I am, and that just make Runblogger blog so much more special (for no real reason, but still).
  • Upper Valley Running Club.  Okay, this one really gives away my location.  I came across it after browsing through a running club website that listed a lot of running clubs in the country, and I came across this one.  I think somewhere in the back of my brain I realize the existence of this club, but I never paid attention to this fact until now.  The club seems to consist many local runners not affiliated with the college, and as a result the more active admin members are not really in my age group (but the full roster is password protected for members only).  They all look like such experienced runners that I don't think I will approach or join them until I can run better.  But they have very nice monthly newsletters with tips and member interviews.  Also through browsing their website I found a lot more local races that I would be very interested to do later this year (see below).
  • Running Tangents.  I came across this blog after searching for reviews on SPIbelt.  The blogger, Jen, also wrote a lot of other product reviews that are very interesting, personable, and useful.  And I started to read a lot of her other stuff.  
There are other blogs that I've come across from time to time that I haven't really subscribed.  Apparently runners also keep very active blogs (to document their progress and event, I guess, since they log everything they do anyway), and I love reading about whenever they attend a race.

Practical Races for the Near Future

These are the races I really want to do that are also in the vicinity of where I am, and of distances that I believe I can complete by the time they come.

  • AFAA 5/10K walk/run.  So far the only race I registered for because the first 300 entrants get a free T-shirt~.  I assume I will be getting one since I signed up really early and they asked me for my shirt size.  Will be the first race ever for me, and is in less than a week and half (yikes!).  I have to say I have no particular feelings toward this race or the cause it supports other than as an opportunity that further motivates me to run, but I'm grateful that it makes me feel good about giving something to the veterans.  And I'm hoping that there will be many locals running this race so I get to meet other runners in the area.  Apparently many of the UVRC members are also going to run, so we will see what happens.
  • Cystic Fibriosis Foundation 5K.  First race that caught my eye shortly after I started running (literally the day after I first went to the gym with the curiosity and determination to see if I could run).  I still have not registered for it yet, since it doesn't really have any entry prizes and you can register at the day of the event.  Many people in our department is going to run, so I'm particularly nervous about running in front of people I know.  I know a lot of them are good runners, and I would just hate to embarrass myself in front of them.  It's ~3 weeks away, so I still have plenty of time, and it's a walk/run, so I will definitely not be the last one to finish, and it should be a very casual event.  So I'm really looking forward to it.  I've also successfully convinced two people to join me, and hopefully they will keep their word as I will mine.
  • Turkey Trot 10K.  To be honest, the only thing that excites me about this race is that it's conveniently located for me, and it's something I could do in Nov.  November in New Hampshire is tough, sometimes really tough, for running.  I guess I wouldn't mind running in the cold terribly, provided I'm confident in what I would wear, but if it starts to snow and there's ice on the ground then I would be more reluctant to run.  So we'll see, if the weather is good I will go, but definitely not committed to it.
  • Foliage 5 Miler.  A fall running event in Thetford, VT.  I kind of want to do it because of the scenery I would see, but I've never been to Thetford so I don't know what I would expect. It's on a Sunday in the fall, so maybe my parents could join me (as spectators).  
  • CHaD Half.  Annual half marathon to raise money for the Children's hospital.  The event also has 5K run/walk and 10K hike options, so if I'm not ready to do a half marathon by October, there are other options.  This will be the most expensive event of all: every participant is required to raise at least $75 of donation.  And I fear that the real motivation for me to do the half as opposed to the other options is to get the most out of the money.  Plus I've seen it in the past and most runners dress up as superheros, often completing their costumes with a red cape, so it looks super cheerful and fun.  But it would be a nice, local challenge for me to improve my running.  It's not till October, so we'll see.
Dream Marathons

I've yet to be able to run a 5K, so a marathon is still a distant, distant goal.  But eventually I want to complete one.  I'm already looking forward to the rewarding feeling of completing a marathon.  It will be such an accomplishment.  Here are a few marathons that I really want to attend in the future:

  • The Honolulu Marathon.  I first learned about it from Naoko Takagi's autobiographical comic on her running a marathon.  In addition to being her first ever marathon and trip to Hawaii, this just seems to be the most perfect place to run, and the most fun event created.  It's in December, so you can get away from the cold wherever-you-are-from and fly out to Hawaii.  At the start of the race they not only fire a starter's pistol, but also display lots of fire works.  You run through the best neighborhoods in Honolulu and past the beach, and apparently there are bands and very enthusiastic crowds along the way.  Oh and, did I mention it's in Hawaii?  You know what that means, it means that when you finish the race you are in HAWAII!  I don't think I will be able to do it this year, both because of my ability and because I want to go back to China this winter so time-wise it's not going to work out.  But I really hope I can do it next year.
  • The Disney Marathon.  I love Disney and I love Disney World.  So what could be better than doing a marathon at Disney world?  The race is in January, and although it's not Hawaii, it's still Florida, and it's in Disney world!  They have other racing events throughout the year, but I really want to do the real one.  And my ultimate goal is to do the Dopey Challenge, which is to complete every event they have on the marathon weekend.  This includes a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half on Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday.  I don't know when I will be able to do something like that, but I'm sure that if I keep running someday I will.  There is a pace requirement, at least for the full marathon (as opposed to the Honolulu marathon, which is a walk/run, so there is no cut off time or pacing requirement), but it seemed really slow, so if I run well I would still have plenty of time to stop and take pictures with all the characters and other attractions.  
  • New York Marathon.  In terms of big city marathons, New York definitely has a special place in my heart.  The race is typically in November (I guess there are worse times you can have a marathon in New York), and as far as I can tell it's lottery based (the lottery takes place in March).  There are some ways you can get guaranteed entry, but the way that would most applicable to me is by joining a charity team, which means paying thousands of dollars to a charity of your choice to secure an entry.  But the appeal of the race is definitely the location.  You run through all 5 boroughs of New York City and see, really, the best that New York has to offer.  And you finish in Central Park, hopefully with a big party.  So I really hope I can do it someday, and it will be cheaper than going to Hawaii or Florida~~
  • Boston Marathon.  I'm not sure if I really want to do the Boston marathon, or am able to in any time soon (or ever), since it has an almost cruel entry time.  2:35 for my age group I think.  I'm not sure if I can ever run this fast.  But I guess the Boston Marathon is the holy grail of marathons, and you not only get the prestige, the history, the city, you also get to meet the best runners in the world.  And for that I want to be part of it, someday, maybe.  It's like being part of an exclusive club or something.  But of the 4 races I hold this with the least hope or interest.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Exercise Diary: First road run

It was a disaster.

I guess if you took away the disastrous parts and focus on the running it wasn't that bad.  There were about 3 stretches where I did some real running, and one with really big hills, and for those I was doing pretty well.

I was too ambitious for my own good.  I was being indecisive.  I knew I didn't have the ability to run long or fast but I kept wanting to try weird routes.  My original plan was to run around a pond next to my lab, because all the roads around the pond are paved, and one lap around is exactly one mile.  But I wasn't happy with the "easy" run.  I wanted to go on a trail nearby, that has better scenery, more shade, and more hills.  I wasn't sure if it was still too muddy to run (it was, I learned it the hard way), but I was severely beaten by it almost a year ago and never went back, and I was eager to see after all these weeks of running if I could conquer it this time.

The short answer is no.  But deep into the woods where the trail extends it was muddy, sometimes with very big barely unfrozen puddles.

Yea.  "Puddle".  There are still pieces of ice afloat.  

Anyways, after I got to that point and was continuing stepping into mud I decided to head back, finally acknowledging that running this trail today was not a good idea.  On my way down I came down two giant hills, one of which was fine but the other was so steep that my left ankle took a toll.  It wasn't too much fun going back up either: halfway up the hill I resorted to walking.

Too bad it doesn't look like much in the picture, but it was a big hill.  

On my way back up there was another guys making his way into the woods.  I thought about warning him but gave up.  I don't know what he was thinking as he saw me coming up.  Either that I was completing a loop or giving up I guess.  I didn't see him again, maybe he was brave enough to brace through the mud.

The view of the trail is beautiful though.  You can see why it's appealing, and in the summer would be popular and cool.  The thick foliage in the summer even blocks the rain apparently.

Anyway, all this hullabaloo was, according to my Nike+, worth a whole mile, which was probably (read: definitely) my better mile of the two.  After climbing up 3 hills my calves and shins were tired.  The road around the pond wasn't very even and we had to make way for any coming cars.  The edge of the road was even more cracked and uneven.  

But the view is breathtaking.

Next time I'm going to just buckle down and do laps around the pond, and not think about other trails until I'm (and they are) really ready.

It's going to rain tomorrow.  Boohoo. 


  • Following a nice but chilly weekend, right now multiple weather forecasting sites are boasting ~75 degrees outside.  It's exciting but... oh so warm out!  I was planning on going for a run outside today, now I don't know if I want to do it. [edit: it was warm but not 75 degrees warm.  There was plenty of shade, and a very nice breeze.  This is probably the nicest time of the year since you can get away with not putting on sunblocks or bug spray.]
  • Today is the 118th Boston Marathon.  I'm not in Boston, obviously.  We don't get Easter Monday off and I have no desire to go to a big city when I know there will be a bigger crowd than usual.  But as I was eating lunch today and surfing the net it occurred to me that many of the faster runners have already finished.  Apparently this is the first time in a long while that an American had won the men's race.  Country of citizenship doesn't matter, however, as a quick glance at the same new article told me that the man came to the US at age 10 from Eritrea, a small state just north of Ethiopia.  It doesn't make him less American than any other American citizens (I myself only became a citizen a few years ago), but in terms of the fastest runners in the world, well the African descents (more recent descents, I mean, as we are all of African descents) still beat the rest of the world by a long, long shot.  I'm also incredibly moved by the strong wave of comeback that the runners and the spectators exhibited this year, after last year's tragedy.  Yes security has to be strengthened to accommodate all the extra people, but the spirit is oh so right.  It's a happy day for Boston.
  •  There's a hilarious gif of the women's champion Rita Jeptoo running past a green line train as she was closing in on the finishing line.  It's funny because I've taken the same train multiple times, and while I can't say that it's the fastest regional rail I've ever taken, outrunning the train is still an incredible feat.  It really made my day.
  • I was surfing on the net last night and stumbled across The Color Run, with it's Brooklyn 5K on the day after Independence Day, a period of time which, if there are no other interruptions, I will be home to celebrate Independence Day and my birthday with my parents.  Which means that I can participate in the run.  And I really want to.  But I don't want to go alone (plus it's $5 cheaper if I can go with 3 other people).  I know a few of my friends also run, but I have no idea if they will be in the area then.  It's still some time away and I have more than a month before they raise the price again, but I really hope I can go and experience this.  
  • Each lap around the pond is a mile, which apparently made it the most popular place to run.  As I was making my way toward the loop I already saw about 6 people running past me, with more to come as I continued along.  In addition to runners there were also roller skaters, skaters, dog walkers, and this grandmother taking her granddaughter out for tricycling.  It was the most adorable couple.  There are some grand mansions around the pond as well.  My bitterness of their richness aside, they are spectacularly beautiful houses.  
Thoughts on equipments:
  • I had my new orange Headsweat cap on while running.  While it did a good job absorbing all the sweat but it was kind of warm to wear.  Imagine how warm it would be in the real summer.  The orange color still looked kinda weird, and I really have to be careful of the colors of shirt I wear.  Our school color is green so I have a few green shirts, which would look hideous with the orange cap.  But I was wearing black today so it was fine.  I suspect the bright color would make me be remembered though.  Oh well.
  • SPIBelt.  I got a SPIBelt to carry my keys and my iPod.  I debated long and over the right belt to get for running, and ended up ordering this one with much reluctance and reservation.  My main worry is that the pocket is too small.  I wanted more loops and buckles and inner pockets to keep my things and maybe a water bottle.  But none of the belts that carry bottles looked compact  and all of them had complaints of bouncing from one reviewer or another.  I ended up getting it for it's overwhelming popularity, and thought that as a beginner, and if planned my routes well, I wouldn't need to carry a bottle or bigger compartments for keeping things.  Today I kept my keys and my iTouch.  I secured it over my running capris (so it wouldn't directly contact my skin) but under my shirt.  It worked well.  The belt didn't bounce.  I secured my things near my left hip and could barely feel it being there.  The only complaint I had was that the back rode up after a while.  It wasn't too bad, the belt didn't chafe or anything, just got sweaty in the end.  I wanted to keep my camera in there as well but feared that it got too bulky, and would be too hard to take out.  Luckily my capris had pockets, so I kept my camera there the whole time.  If I'm running the same loop again I wouldn't bring my camera, but on different routes maybe I would have to hold it the entire time.  It's not a big camera, but my hands do get sweaty while running.
  • I didn't feel any pain while running today, apart from when I was going down the hill improperly.  My calves and shins were really tight after the hills, but no pain.  And still no pain; I didn't stretch very well afterwards today because I'm back in the lab, typing this post, and was interrupted by the janitor trying to vacuum the floor.  I'm wearing my old pair of NB running shoes, which, after switching back to them from my new pair, have been giving me less shin problems.  I think it's because of the pair of Dr. YouKnowWho's insoles I got right after I got my shoes.  I have purchased another pair for my new shoes (which, incidentally, should've arrived today).  So hopefully after I put them in I will have less problem with them.  I do want to go to a professional store and get opinions on the proper pair of shoes to get (since I bought the last two pairs online), but I'm not sure if I'm ready to invest in another pair of shoes so soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Exercise Diary: First time track run

After yesterday's massaging of the knot on my shin the pain surprisingly went away.  It actually felt really good, like this whole week's disastrous injuries had never happened.  And it was so nice out, sunny and with high of 54 degrees.  I was seriously thinking of running outside, but was too afraid that I would stop midway due to my legs, or the weather (it's still chilly out), or being too embarrassed to be seen.  Besides, I've never run anywhere other than on the treadmills yet.

I thought about running on our football field track, but found its "main" gate to be locked, although one of the side gates was closed but unlocked.  And there wasn't anyone on the field or on the track.  In the middle of the football field there was a sign that began with "track closed", but continued saying something that was too small for me to read.  So I decided to run on the indoor track instead.  Baby steps.

I never liked the indoor track.  It's situated above the basketball court, and extremely stuff and hot in the summer.  And it's tiny.  You need to run 14 laps to get 1mile.  I tried to run on it before and got dizzy after a few laps.  But you know, I was only going to do a mile, 14 laps, what's the worst that could happen?

And since I was there at 1pm on Easter Sunday, there was hardly anyone on the track.

I hated the tiny track.  I lost count after about 4 laps, and was too tired to think.  I was running clockwise (clockwise on even dates, CCW on odd dates), so my left foot was hurting.  And I kept having to turn, which was extremely annoying.  I just had to stop after 8.5 laps.  I was angry at myself for doing so, but my left food really need a rest.  I completed one mile by stopping to walk 2 more times, and called it a day.

My Nike+ told me I did 1.03 miles.  It always liked to over-calculate the distance but I guess it's still not too far off.  And with all the walking it only took 12:43, which is less time than I expected.  It wasn't much, but it did give me confidence to move outdoors next time.

I then went upstairs to run some more on the treadmill, but am too embarrassed to talk about it.  It wasn't a good run.

Interesting things:

  • When I left the gym there was one guy running on the outdoor track.  I then realized that the gate I always considered the main gate isn't actually the main one.  There's another much bigger gate next to the concession tent that is probably the real one.  Since it's next to the varsity house and locker rooms and everything.
  • I've been lazy for the past several weekends in terms of working.  I've been getting better at thinking of excuses to not go to lab.  And so far my most favorite way to spend my weekend is to get up (hopefully before noon) and go to the gym, come back and take a nice long shower, cook something I normally do not eat on weekdays, and take a long nap in the afternoon like a lazy cat.  I did that for both days this weekend and it was blissful.
  • I saw a girl running on the road today carrying a small water bottle.  This ignited my desire to get a handheld bottle.  But after some searches on Amazon I gave up on the idea and went back to my original plan to design the best routes that have places where I can stop and buy hydration.  But I did see a running belt with a pouch for water bottle (bottle included) that also had a nice pocket for storing other things.  The reviews said it doesn't bounce.  I was tempted.  Maybe when I'm graduated to longer runs and races I will consider buying it.  I think the brand is Nathan's.

Exercise Diary: Lots of pain, but what's been my gain?

List of late-night random thoughts: 

  • After my glorious work-out on Monday, Tuesday brought about the most unbelievable pain I've experienced so far.  Shin splints on both legs, discomfort on ankles and knees.  I had trouble going down stairs.  The warm weather made me ditched my boots for flats, and I don't think it helped one bit.  So I took Tuesday off, constantly stretching all day and icing in the evening.
  • Wednesday (1.1 mi, treadmill) came and I thought I could handle some more exercising.  It was a short run for many reasons.  My friend was leaving for two weeks starting today, and she wanted to have dinner.  So I only had about 20 minutes for the gym.  I tried to make most of it, but after running two intervals my knee started to hurt.  It actually hurt worse than my shins that day.  Disappointing.
  • Thursday (yoga) I went to yoga thinking that the stretching and working on the rest of my body would help either reliving or even curing my leg problems.  It kind of did to some extent.  The beginning was rough.  We went through endless lunges, warrior poses, and chair poses, the last being worst to my shins.  The teacher, for some reason, had a particular affinity for those poses.  My thighs again took a big hit, my shorts soaked, my stamina fading away.  Maybe I should come to yoga more often?  But by the second half the leg pains began to fade away.  I'm not sure why that was.  I can't really attribute it all to the healing power of yoga, because when I run too hard at some point in the work out the pain would all go away.  It always comes back and hit you  harder the next day however, but at some point the pain signal seems to be blocked by a wave of adrenaline or endorphin or something that gets released.
  • After the class I tried to ask the teacher for some helpful poses for shin splints.  She really didn't tell me anything I don't already know, but she did suggest that I do my stretched in the warm.  Which I haven't been.  I've been doing the opposite in fact, since I iced my legs a lot recently.  So  on Saturday when I was stretching for running I turned my electric heater on.
  • Friday was off day.  Saturday was another 1 mile or so.  I again felt it: pain at the beginning that went away during the middle.  I was again pressed for time so I didn't feel too bad about a short workout.  Whatever that was gone during the workout quickly came back as I was walking home.  I stretched after I got home, and felt a physical knot in my left shin that corresponded to the tightness and pain I've been feeling.  I don't know what it means, feeling this knot, and I didn't know how to deal with it.  So I massaged it, pressed it, tried to make it go away.  Then I stretched it for some more while in the hot shower.  Miraculously it actually had helped a lot.  I hadn't felt any pain all day afterwards, even after going down some endless flights of stairs.  I don't know what it means other than I could keep doing this during stretches later on, but it gave me hopes again for running tomorrow.
  • Tomorrow (aka. today) is supposed to be warm in the afternoon, and sunny.  This kindled my desire to run outside again.  I've been rattling my brain trying to find somewhere that's not muddy, but also isolated and secluded in the afternoon.  So far I can't think of anywhere where I can try and run my first road run without being seen by too many people.  
  • I decided to splurge and get a pair of shoe inserts for my new running shoes.  My left foot arches have been left with weird strains after running with my new shoes, which I suspected overall contributed to my growing shin splints.  I've been buying shoes online recently, and before I could get another pair of running shoes after having my feet properly checked out by a running store professional, I'm gonna remediate by getting Dr.You-know-who's insole.  I got the same (or similar, rather) insoles for my other pair of more worn shoes, and that's probably why I feel more comfortable in them.  So hopefully that would help, especially when I'm going to run on the road and for my 5K.
  • My friend had started working out on a massive scale.  Thursday she, on her status, said that she had done an hour of zumba, 30 minutes on the elliptical, and 2 miles on the treadmill.  Yesterday she did 3 miles on the treadmill.  Which is very impressive to me and probably nothing to her, since I really suck at running and have been avoiding it for a long time before now.  But at the same time I'm worried for her.  This much workout after a long period on inactivity (according to her) probably feels great for now, but will come back to bite her in the butt if she's not careful with pacing herself and stretching.  But she's doing every other day exercising, so I don't know.  I hope she stretches.
  • My books have arrived!  I bought some books on running from China, and after a few weeks of traveling across the world I finally got them on Friday.  Will devote another post on it later.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Exercise Diary: Slowly back on track

Woke up this morning and for a blissful hour and half I was able to walk around my apartment without feeling any pain in either of my shins.  It kind of started again as I started to walk to walk, but the sharp, acute pain was largely gone, and I was left only with periodic dull throbs.

I went running again today, and I triumphantly persuaded a lab mate to join me.  She had made a bunch of excuses about not wanting to go, but eventually agreed.  She went to yoga with us once, way back when, and I think she remembered how unfit she felt in class and that was what fueled her to come.  She didn't have any proper gym clothes or shoes to speak of, but she didn't run (said she was afraid to run on the treadmill), instead had continuously walked for the almost 40 minutes I was doing my workout.

As for my workout, I actually felt better today.  My left calf was really tight the whole time, and at one point it was hurting.  But as time went on it felt better.  I was doing everything I could to keep running while making sure that no part of my legs was feeling pain.  I did more walk/run alternates, and gradually increased speed.  My last two running intervals were at 5.3 mi/hr, which, by the end of my workout, I was having a little trouble doing.  I had to quicken my steps and breath heavily, but I managed.  I actually tried 5.4 as well, but that was too much for me.  My legs were holding up fine, but my breathing was not.  Oh well, we'll make more progress tomorrow.  I hope I won't be  paying for the added speed later tonight.

Interesting things:

  • My sensor pouch arrived.  Hooray~  It's small and black, which blends in well on my shoe.  It's also very light so I barely feel it there.  But because it was wrapped around my shoelace and secured by valcro, it wobbles a bit when I run so that I could feel it wobble, which wasn't a big deal but did alarm me into thinking that it might fall off or something.
  • I was recommended to buy running shoes that are slightly bigger than what I would normally wear.  So when I got my new running shoes that's what I did.  Except because it's a bit too big my feet slip inside the shoes.  While it might fit better with the arcs of my feet, it's more secure to put my toes against the tip of my shoes as I run.  I don't think they are the best fitting shoes ever.  I should've stuck with my usual size.  It's easier to buy a bigger size in the asian and UK shoe metrics than the American ones.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Exercise Diary: Taking it easy

I really think that regular exercise comes only to those who lead a regular, relatively stress-free life.

That is not to say that those people sit on their butts all day, have no worry in the world, and spend a pile of money they don't make themselves for a living.  They may held high powerful positions, they may have tremendous worries in their lives, but they are not so stressful as not to have any energy to think about exercising at all.

I had a long day yesterday.  I left in the morning at 10 past 9, and didn't come back home until 10 before midnight.  I had some of the most random junk for dinner, and went to sleep at 2am and didn't get up until almost 12 hours later.

And today was the first day in 3 weeks that I didn't look forward to running and was dreading the exercise.

I just thought that I couldn't possibly deal with it.

I guess if your day is uncontrollably long and tiring you wouldn't want to exercise either, no matter how refreshing it may be afterwards.

I had promised my friend that I would run with her today, but I woke up to the sound of rain and just wasn't feeling up to it.  I was hoping that the rain would stop and the sun would come up by the afternoon, and the rain did stop, though the sun never fully emerged from behind the clouds.  We were supposed to run on pavements so I had hoped that the morning rain wouldn't dampen our plans.

But then she emailed to cancel, saying that she went running yesterday and had hurt her knees.  I was partially relived, because I could feel the periodical pain on my shins and was nervous about running with her, but at the same time I was sad that I didn't get to run outside.  I contemplated about running outside by myself, but couldn't think of a well-paved route that would be free of people, runners and cars, on a nice Sunday afternoon.  Besides, it's still chilly out, and I wasn't really looking forward to running in a jacket, with a running belt and orange cap for the whole world to see.

So I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill instead.  I went really late in the afternoon and it was chilly and the track was closed.  And today instead of running for as long as I could at 5.2 mi/hr, I tried to do an interval practice, alternating between running for 3 minutes and walking for 2 minutes, graduating increasing in speed and running period.  The increase in running length never happened, but I did go from 5.0 mi/hr to 5.2 during the workout.  I don't quite remember why I didn't commit to gradually running longer, maybe because of my shins, but I did find running 3 minutes at a long very manageable and sometimes unsatisfying.  But in the end, during my cool down walk, my left shin kept throbbing insistently (still is), that I feel that I had again overworked myself.  Oh phooey.

Interesting things:

  • I had forgotten that badminton has extended its hours to the weekends, more specifically Sundays  7-9.  Saw my friends playing but just didn't want to join in.
  • Saw a guy running effortlessly and with perfect form on a treadmill a row ahead of me, running at 7.3 mi/hr, and kept at the pace for my entire run.  And he kept a long stride, so it was easy to follow his movements and admire him at the same time.
  • So was another girl.  More opening going at him.  She's also asian, and she looked like she was anorexic.  Or, according to other asians, normal looking.  She was skinny but she runs well.  I don't know if she has a crush on the guy, or if they are just really good friends, but during my entire run she went to talk to him 3 times (while he was running).  She started out running on the treadmill right next to mine, directly behind him, and ran for like 5 minutes, first at 6 mi/hr, then gradually upped to 6.7.  Like I said, she could run.  Then she mystically left, and after a few minutes, went to talk to him again, and tried to run next to him.  She started with 6.5 mi/hr, running using noticeably quicker steps than when she was running next to me.  I hope they are good friends or are dating or something, if not then I find her a very silly girl.
  • Just saw today that two of my friends in high school completed a half-marathon this weekend.  I'm both inspired and jealous, of their ability to run, and of their maintained friendship.  I don't think I had talked to either of them since high school, and had only Facebook talked to one of them at some point.  One of the girls I was both jealous of and inspired by.  She was chubby in high school, like me, but she has since taken up running, found a boyfriend (now fiancee) who either inspired her to run or she met during her running, and they have since ran many races together.  Plus she is now skinny.  I hope I would be like that one day.  Skinny and good at running I mean, if I can get a boyfriend out of it that would be a nice bonus too.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Exercise Diary: Pain and Ambition

Went running today after a two-day hiatus.  It was a short run, although I had planned it to be a 40-minute workout.  It didn't happen.  Unlike Tuesday's workout, during which I had felt pain in my shins and adjusted my form to avoid worsening the injury, today I felt pain in my shins and tried but unsuccessfully offset those pains by lifting the thighs more.

I think I have overworked my body.

I've been reading various articles on Runner's World, which is very helpful for both beginners and more advanced runners, and the biggest realization that I came across was the three toos of running: too much, too soon, too fast.

I think I fell victim to all 3.  I had increased the distance I've been doing way too much from week to week, I had tried to attempt a 5K way too soon, and I tried to push myself to run faster before my body is able to cope with the added stress.

Yet all this time I thought it had been a natural result of my increased endurance and my comfort at a quicker pace.  But I think I've just been too ambitious.  I was unhappy with the same amount of distance I do everyday, I wanted to be at the top of the leader board among my friends, I wanted to do well in the upcoming 5K, I wanted to be the runner in my head.

But my body is not ready.

I think I will still run with the same frequency that I do now, but I will shorten my workouts and not attempt any long distance running any time soon.  I'm moving my run onto the road this weekend, which I'm both nervous and excited about, but I won't push myself too hard.

Interesting things of note:

1)  I know in theory the right form that I need to keep while running, but when I'm on the treadmill I'm never quite sure if I'm doing it right.  I keep my body and gaze straight, I try my best to push my elbows back, and I try to land my foot not too far ahead of my body and kick the other back as I propel myself forward.  And sometimes I feel that I can really get the full effect when I was running fast.  But at one running interval today I kind of felt how I was supposed to be running.  I felt that my back foot was pushing much higher, my elbows pulling more forcefully, and that I was really using my whole body to move forward.  I felt that for about a minute, and the next time I began to run I lost that feeling.  And sometimes when I kick too hard my shins began to hurt.

2)  Today I officially signed up for my first 5K race.  It's not the Cystic Fibriosis Foundation one that originally inspired me to run, but this one happens earlier.  It's on May 3rd, which is in 3 weeks, and it's a 5K/10K race hosted by our schools Armed Forces Alumni association to raise money for two different veteran-related charities.  I liked it for its convenient on-campus location, and the fact that the first 300 entrants gets a free T-shirt (since I was asked for my shirt size I assume that I will be getting one).  Our lab manager happily agreed to run with me, and I signed up online.  This is going to be my first race, and since I put it on Facebook, the whole world now knows.  Since you also have the option of doing a 10K, they are giving out sensor chips at the race to keep official record.  I'm excited about the whole officiality of this.

3)  I started to ice my shins after showering yesterday.  I don't have a real ice pack so I tried to fill up my glass bottle with water and freeze it to make my own.  I had underestimated how much water was going to expand as it freezes, and overfilled my bottle, and destroyed the bottle astonishingly into little pieces.  So I switched over to plastic bottles, only filled up 2/3, and left the cap unscrewed as it sits in the freezer.  In the mean time this was how I iced my shins:

I didn't have a bag of frozen peas, but frozen edamame is the same right?  I don't think I will be eating the contents of this bag, but it worked well as an ice pack.  

4) Amazon had emailed me a few days ago telling my that they've finally shipped out my Nike+ sensor pouch.  I had to get one since my shoes are not Nike+ Ready, so I had to secure my sensor to my shoes by some other means.  After looking through various hacks on the internet, I resorted to the good ol' trusty duct tape.  More specifically, my awesome Duck brand Minions duct tape that I got for no reason but have been dying to use ever since.  So until my pouch arrives, here's how I'm doing it:

First I wrap the sensor in a piece of plastic wrap to keep it from the harmful stickiness of the duct tape (and some other natural elements such as rain, just to be thorough).

Then I cut a piece of duct tape about 3X the length of the sensor.  I secure the sensor by folding ~1/3 of the duct tape over it.

Make sure the sensor is sitting in the fold the way it's supposed to be on the shoe.

Then stick this part under the shoe lace at the front of the shoe to secure it in place.

And lastly, fold the remaining tape over the while thing, not only to secure it tightly, but also to further protect it from possible rain and other things that might damage the sensor.

To me it's still pretty obvious that I have a piece of duct tape on my shoe, but compared to the less elegant way people have been taping their sensor on their sneakers I think this just has to do for the time being.  And I do dispose this make-shift pouch after every run and make a new one each time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Exercise Diary: Surrendered to Yoga

Today was yoga day.  I almost didn't make it.  It was a long ass day of talks, experiments, more talks, more experiments, and annoying logistics with my PI.  I didn't eat well either.  Had a big breakfast of chicken pot pie because after waking up I was just absolutely starved.  Then they served coffee and cookies at every talk, so I didn't eat lunch until 3pm.  And I couldn't eat too much for the fear of doing yoga on a full stomach (I had that happen once, it was so terrible.  My goal for that day was to not throw up on my mat).

Anyways, I did make to yoga, and happily found the class only half full, which meant more space for the rest of us.

The class itself today was... brutal.  It's only been less than a week since my last class, and theoretically the gap wouldn't affect my performance.  But I was just tired today.  There were a lot of crescent lunges that were really hard on my legs, and after keeping the lunge pose until I almost gave out the instructor made us move to a warrior III, which is like warrior I, but with only one leg on the mat.  It was just too much.  My balance today was terrible too.  I couldn't keep a good dance pose, and I couldn't do a good tree pose.  Oh well, we all have terrible days.

My biggest realization today was that in order to keep high and low push-up poses more effortlessly, you must engage your legs and core more.  Which made sense since a lot of the core strengthening work-outs are push-up variations, like the plank.  When you engage your core as you attempt to keep a high or low push-up pose, it's so much easier and less tiring and less pressure on the wrists.  See, this is why I go to yoga classes instead of just messing around on my own at home.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Exercise Diary: Meh run, interesting people at the gym though

After yesterday's breakthrough, I had a feeling that today's run wouldn't be spectacular in anyway.  My legs are tired.  Shin splints are cropping up.  I am acutely aware of my front leg muscles as I go about my day.  I'm not tired, I'm not injured, but I think I've overworked myself.

Good thing that I'm not running for the next two days (yoga Thursday).

In short, I did 2.87 miles in ~40 minutes today.  Fine first 10 minutes, then tired.

But I can now walk and run for a longer period of time.  I was doing a 40-minute timed workout, and for all intents and purposes I did just that.

My thighs are really tired now after today's run.  I could feel the muscles spasming, and it's time for a rest.

Interesting observations:

  • I went a bit late today, at almost 8:40, since I had to go grocery shopping with my friend earlier.  I was starved and I had some bread pudding (store bought) and Snapea crisps before leaving for gym.  I don't think I'm going to make my own bread pudding, even though the stuff I bought wasn't half bad, especially after heating.  I have a very good recipe from the late Nora Ephron, but the ingredients are shocking.
  • Still a lot of people in the gym.  My friend the crazy badminton guy/basketball guy was there, doing strength training I imagine.  He was sweet enough to step into my field of vision and wave hi.  Then I never saw him again.
  • Apparently some channel was playing Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban.  I wasted some energy trying to figure out what movie a McGonagall scene was for, and was ashamed that it took a few shots before I could figure out.  
  • On my own display/TV screen it was playing FoxNEWS.  Eww.  Though I don't watch the TV screen anymore I still had to switch to CNN (not by choice, it was just that it wasn't FoxNews) before my workout.
  • Everyone around me on the treadmills were great runners, but the guy in front of me to the right was exceptionally good.  He already did almost 4 miles when I started running, and it only took him 27 minutes to do that.  He was running at a 6 or so minute pace, burning over 1000 calories an hour, and apart from his increasingly soaking wet white T-shirt he didn't change his speed, posture, or anything else until he finally stopped after a 7-mile run.  It only took him 47 minutes.  He, in essence,  did a 10K like it was nothing.  And all the while he was running he kept a similar stride speed  as I was so stride-wise I was matching him, which made my admiring him all the more effortless. Of course he had longer legs and much, much better endurance.  Good for him.  His posture was great too.
  • The girl to my left was also doing exceptionally awesome.  She completed a 2.7-mile run in about 35 minutes, running at a speed of 6mi/hr for the most part.  Unlike the dude before me she kept a much quicker stride speed, taking smaller steps.  She also had great posture (and she was so skinny but her body proportion was perfect), but I imagine that if I pay attention to her while running myself I would really lose control of my breathing. 
  • Stopped to watch my friends play badminton before going back home.  I think my super-good friend had hurt her back.
  • I'm now going to take a shower, help myself with a large slice of (store-bough) chicken pot pie and some ice cream, hopefully do my laundry today (may still not get to it), and call it a night.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Exercise Diary: My first 5K!

After yesterday's terrible run, I've reached a new milestone today: I completed my first uninterrupted 5K run.

Whatever happened yesterday was thankfully not a reversion back to my old un-athletic self.  I think it was because I waited too long between my warm-up stretch and my actual run.  Or the machine I was using was just not good, although I can't imagine how that could be.  Anyway, after a good stretch I walked over to the gym, found the last unoccupied treadmill in the center of the fitness room, and just settled.

I was supposed to do a 30-minute timed workout.  I was able to run for about 15 minutes before deciding that it was enough running, walked for a few minutes, ran for another 5.  I did two more run/walk alternates, and at some point, as my 30-minute workout was about to end, I saw that I had passed the 2-mile mark, and for pure amusement wondered if I would make my way to a 5K.  I mean, it would be a 5K regardless whether I walk or run the rest of it right?  It would take more than 30 minutes, but that didn't matter.  It wasn't as if I was going to be late for something if I don't immediately stop my workout after 30 minutes.  I ran for another while, and walked the rest of the distance.

I know that 5km is about 3.1 miles, but I wasn't sure exactly, so I ended up doing 3.3 miles, for good measure.  Here's my graph:

This is like a combination of my past two runs.  I kept a nice pace for the first mile or so, crashed, but instead of giving up I alternated between running and walking the rest of the way, like I did yesterday.  I'm sure with more practice I will be able to lengthen my subsequent running periods, and keep a faster pace.  I can now run comfortably between 5.2 and 5.3 mi/hr.

Interesting related things:
  • Ran into my lab manager on my way to the gym.  She was on her way back from yoga.
  • As I passed the football field I saw that the gate to the field was open, which means that open field season is starting again.  During summer/fall the field is open for anyone in the community to use from dawn to sunset.  I thought about running a few laps around the track to calibrate my sensor for outdoor runs, but when I got out of the gym the sun had set and the gate was locked.  Oh well, there are still some puddles in the back of the track anyway.  So maybe next time.
  • When I started to run my shins began to hurt in an alarming way.  I think I may need to walk a bit before running, despite the warm-up walk from home to the gym.  I didn't want to stop running so I altered my running posture.  I raised my legs a bit more and transferred all my motions to my thighs, which helped in that my shins weren't hurting anymore.  I stretched a lot afterwards and didn't feel injured, but could still feel slight acute pains in my calf, ankle, and other areas of my legs.  I hope they don't leave me long-term injuries.
  • The gym is somewhat crowded but not as much as before.  There was a spinning class going on so all the cubbies were occupied but there were still a number of machines available.  I saw a fellow grad student who's in my year also running.  I suspect he was also training for the 5K.  He looked like he was running much better than me.
  • All the triumphant feelings I got from running were successfully crushed by my celebratory ramen and chocolate ice cream.  The weight-losing part of my plan is not going very well.

Foodie Diary: 京东肉饼&红薯西米露

I took a nap this afternoon and after I woke up I had an overwhelming desire for grocery shopping.  I knew that Ben&Jerry ice creams were on sale, and I ended up deciding to try out two new recipes.

One was for 北京京东肉饼.  It's essentially meat and scallions stuffed inside pancakes.  It actually looks like quesadillas, but without the cheese and other quesadilla essentials.  Here's the website for the recipe (it's in Chinese): http://www.meishij.net/chufang/diy/gaodianxiaochi/59061.html

The recipe was... vague to say the least.  It gave no numerical amount for any of the ingredients, it didn't tell you how to make the pancake, you are apparently just supposed to know as part of you general knowledge.  And the direction was very... qualitative.  It was surprising that my food turned out very similar to the picture.  I was quite pleased with myself, even though I almost set off the smoke alarm.

Here's mine:

Looks alright, doesn't it?  This was actually my second try.  The first batch looked like this:

Oh boy...

It was too big and I left it in the pan for too long.  Tasted ok though.  

  • Originally I wanted to add other things into it, like onions or bok choy, to make it veggie rich.  But my friend kindly told me that adding these things would increase the water content in the filling, making the crust very wet and soggy when you pan-fry it.  I might still try it next time though.
  • Add water to ground pork and mix before adding the other stuff.
  • I added too much soy sauce.  It didn't taste bad, just kinda weird.
  • don't fry it on one side for too long, it burns quite easily.  But don't take it out to quickly, there are layers of dough and meat that have to be cooked through
  • If you have leftovers, like I do, you can keep it in the fridge and pan-fry it before eating the next time.  But since I'm going to bring it to work tomorrow I will haven't to microwave.  It'll still be okay I believe.

This one has no recipe since it was so simple.  All the ingredients are in the title.  I picked sweet potato for its color and natural sweet taste, but I think next time I will use purple sweet potato, if I can get my hands on some.  
I used small tapioca, but it still took a while to cook.  After all the tapioca turned transparent, I poured some coconut milk over it, and put diced sweet potato in it.  That's it.

  • I microwaved the sweet potato chunks for about 3 minutes.  You don't want to steam or boil them completely through or they will just be a pile of mush.  Slightly microwaved chunks are just right.
  • The coconut milk I bought was only slightly sweetened, and I didn't add and sugar to the tapioca when I was boiling them.  So it was kind of bland.  I added some maple syrup since the coconut milk was cold and sugar just wouldn't dissolve.  It tasted pretty good.  
  • You have to constantly stir the tapioca or everything will stick to the bottom of your saucepan.  It was a bit tedious but otherwise you would be very sorry.

I think next time I will use a different colored bowl.

Exercise Diary: 5 days of exercising in review

So I've been putting off writing down my exercise progress for a while now.  But my enthusiasm for exercising has not diminished.  So now I have 5 days worth of exercising to summarize.

In short:
Wednesday: Abs
Thursday: badminton
Friday: Yoga
Saturday: Running
Sunday: Running

Wednesday: Abs
I saw this set of plank variation that my friend posted on Facebook.  It seemed much easier than the Ab Ripper video I had downloaded before, and it only required 4 minutes of workout a day.  So I decided to try it out.
Here's the link (It's in Chinese): http://www.funfarmer.com/object_article.aspx?id=12147&ref=m
On the page you will find 8 different plank variations helpfully demonstrated in gif form.  You are supposed to do 20 secs of each, with 10 secs of rest in between.  I just do 10 of each, since counting seconds is just too much work.
I can't do 2 of the variations.  Side plank is just too much for me.  I was never able to do it in yoga class, and doing it on the hard floor at home was just too much.  And I also skipped the last one; my hand/leg coordination was just not up to par.
So to make up for those I did some crunches and bicycle kicks after the plank sets.  And the next day I really felt something.  My stomach muscles were really sore.  I hadn't felt it before with my crunches.  So I guess it is working.  Next time I will pull out my yoga mat and do it properly.

Thursday: Badminton
I was supposed to go to yoga class, but I then promised a friend that I would go play badminton with her.  I was going to run before that, but I indulged myself with a footlong Subway sandwich and just couldn't move afterwards.  I almost didn't make to badminton either.
I sucked.  Rather, my friend is super good.  Both technically and endurance-wise.  I seem to have forgotten everything I learned.  But in reality I know all the theories but just can't apply them properly.  I did sweat quite profusely and afterwards couldn't move my legs for the entire rest of the night.  It was nothing like running.  It was weird.  And it was hard on my legs and shins.  No wonder I got shin splint playing badminton in college.  I think I will go play again at some point, but compared with everything else I'm doing right now my enthusiasm for badminton at the moment is not very high.

Friday: Yoga Class
My other friend said she would go with me to yoga but at the last minute her experiment failed epically and she couldn't make it.  But our lab manager, who also went, was sweet enough to save me a spot in the back in a very full class (the undergrads are back).  The class went very well.  I sweated A LOT.  But I wasn't as tired afterwards so I guess all the running really helped my endurance.  It was a good workout that really opened up my whole body.  It was also my last class of the 10-class pass I had bought, which means I have to cough up another $115 for another pass, which I'm trying to hold out for as long as possible.  With the running and my 5K goal I think I'm going to cut back from yoga to maybe once a week, but at some point I would still need to buy another pass or I might not be going at all.  I'm good at not keeping up with things like this, so I have to be careful.

Saturday: Running
I got my Nike+ sensor in the mail on Friday, but coincidently I left my iPod in the lab so I couldn't go to the gym to try it out on.  And although my sensor had arrived, it would be another two week until my sensor pouch to come.  Since I don't own a pair of Nike+ Ready shoes I would have to attach the sensor to my shoes by some other means.  And since my sensor pouch still hasn't left the seller, I had to Macgyver up some way to keep my sensor securely attached to the shoe.  In the end I managed to concoct something out of my Minion duct tape and a piece cut from a plastic bag, and managed to tape the sensor on my shoe without making it look too conspicuous.
The sensor worked great in that my iTouch was able to pick it up without too much hackling.  I logged in two workouts that day, one for walking from the lab to the gym, and one for running on the treadmill.  The sensor is pretty accurate on the treadmill; I still calibrated it afterwards but it was only about 0.03 miles off from the actual distance.  The walk outside, however, was more off I think.  It said that the distance from my lab to the gym was 0.9 mi, which I thought was quite a bit of exaggeration (I thought it was only like 0.7mi or something), but I don't know the exact distance so I didn't calibrate it.  I will worry about that after a real run.

Sunday: Running
Woke up early to run, but ran into some hiccups.  I made the mistake of calling my mom, who was trying to reach me yesterday, right after my warm up stretch.  It turned into a 30min phone call.  And when I got to the gym the touch screen of the treadmill I was on was horribly non-responsive and I lost a lot of energy trying to get it to work (it didn't) while running.  My endurance was terrible; I was out of breath, my legs were tired, and I just couldn't keep running.  I resorted to walking after about 8 minutes, 7min earlier than my goal time.  I was on a 30-min timed workout, so for the reminder of the time I alternated between 3min walks and 2min runs, and managed to finish the entire workout with a 2-mile distance.  Which, I guess, wasn't that horrible in the end, and my Nike+ activity graph looked kind of cool.


I like Nike+ so far because the sensor is simple to work with.  I like that my app has timed workouts, and that every 5 minutes it tells you the time.  For me it was a nice motivation.  And I like the website that keeps track of everything.  The graphs are nice, and I get to connect with my running friends to see how everyone else is doing.  Here's my progress for the past two days:

I know it's not much yet.  But my goal right now is only 5K and I hope I can keep this up for a long time to come.